How do householders interact with their heating controls?

This paper presents measurements of householders’ manual interaction with their heating controls. The results demonstrate the importance of measuring heating use behaviour directly rather than relying on thermostat and timer settings or inferring heating use from internal temperature measurements. This is the first time, to the author’s knowledge, that manual heating interactions have been recorded. Heating controls will only save energy if used effectively, yet currently, little is known about how they are used. This paper describes an in-depth study of twelve UK residential properties that had new heating controls installed. Heating system interactions with these controls, energy consumption and room temperatures were monitored for ten months from July 2014 to April 2015 inclusive, covering autumn and spring shoulder months and the winter heating season. These measured data were supported by a series of qualitative interviews with the households. The paper reports details of the householders’ heating system use, separating the occupants’ manual interactions with the controls from their pre-programmed heating schedules. The findings show that the participants had many manual interactions with their heating systems, even during scheduled heating periods; changing heating durations and demand temperatures. The results also identify that manual interactions with heating controls occur more frequently during the winter season than in the shoulder months. The results have important implications relating to assumptions of set-point temperatures and schedule characteristics previously based only on self-reported use or measured internal temperature profiles.